Opera - Danilo Rea and Flavio Boltro at Schloss Elmau
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Lasciatemi morire ó LíArianna (1608) [2:58]
Toccata from Orfeo (1607) [02:52]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Dal tuo stellato soglio ó Mosť in Egitto (1818) [5:04]
Sinfonia dal Barbiere di Siviglia [7:39]
Sinfonia dal Guglielmo Tell (1816) [5:32]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Vaga luna che inargenti ó Composizioni de Camera (c.1820) [4:55]
Casta Diva ó Norma [3:05]
Giuseppe GIORDANI (1751-1798)
Caro mio ben [4:55]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678 1741)
Piango, gemo, sospiro e peno [3:04]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
E lucevan le stele ó Tosca (1900) [4:41]
O mio babbino caro ó Gianni Schicchi (1918) [4:26]
Francesco CILEA (1866-1950)
Io son L'umile ancella ó Adriana Lecouveur (1902) [4:28]
Danilo Rea (piano): Flavio Boltro (trumpet)
rec. studio and live, 9 December 2010, Schloss Elmau
ACT 9508-2 [54:20]

This is an unusual album with a crossover classical-jazz ethos. It teams trumpeter Flavio Boltro with pianist Danilo Rea in all-Italian repertoire and as the disc title makes clear, itís all operatic - well, almost all.

Rea is a jazz pianist but had a classical training at the Santa Cecilia academy in Rome, where he was born. He discovered a love of opera through Puccini, so itís appropriate that he includes some in the album. Whereas Rea has a classical training and now plays jazz, Boltro is perhaps better known as a classical stylist who is willing and able to embark on other projects, such as this one. He studied in Turin and has worked in symphonic music, but heís clearly well versed in the lexicon of bop trumpet.

Itís unusual to use Monteverdi as a basis for homage and improvisation but one senses that Rea in particular, the guiding force, wants to celebrate the totality of Italian operatic music, and where better to start than the fons et origo? Reaís allusive chording and Boltroís rich, sometimes fat tone, fuse jazz with a kind of romanticised idealism in Lasciatemi morire. Rea turns more experimental in the famous fanfare Toccata from Orfeo, slithering fingers over the piano strings and using a very percussive treble as a basis for timbral exploration. His boppish licks and luscious roulades are complemented by the declamatory trumpet lines, to produce music of undeniable newness.

Itís fortunate that Rea has thought carefully how he wishes to present these arias and other pieces. Each is therefore nicely characterised, as the plangent chording on Rossiniís Dal tuo stellato soglio demonstrates. I take it that here he wishes to mark a sharp distinction between playing what sounds like, in effect, a piano reduction and then launching on fully fledged improvisation and overt lyricism. The longest track is Sinfonia dal Barbiere di Siviglia. This allows the duo the most room for manoeuvre in terms of using terse staccati, fragmentary themes, and an experimental approach tailed by a far-out scena, forged from the near cutting-edge. Itís the nearest they get to, say, The Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Caro mio ben, an aria antiche beloved of singers down the years, inspires the duo to relaxed warmth complete with trumpet flurries. Similarly the ĎBí section of Vivaldiís Piango, gemo, sospiro e peno is fruitily boppish, as is much of O mio babbino caro, once past the opening impressionist hints from Rea. The duo gets funky on Sinfonia dal Guglielmo Tell, one of the live tracks. The extra adrenalin imparted by the audience seems to inspire them to a more raucous, straight ahead Nat Adderley kind of approach Ė one to which Iím very partial. The final track, also live, offers a clement Cilea aria.

Do you file this under Jazz or Classical? Is it jazz on classical themes, or is it reclaiming the improvisatory prerogative in classical music-making? For those of us who find such absolutes restrictive, other than in the strictly filing sense, Iím not certain that it really much matters. Doubtless highbrows will find the whole thing a bit cheap. I liked it.

Jonathan Woolf

Doubtless highbrows will find the whole thing a bit cheap. I liked it.